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Tough Neighborhood?

Sometimes you will hear that a Karate Sensei grew up in a tough neighborhood and had to learn martial arts in order to survive on the streets. This is particularly true in certain neighborhoods here in Hawaii.

I have to admit that I did not grow up in any tough neighborhoods. My father was in the Air Force and I grew up on or near Air Force bases. I was born in 1957.

One of the things I recall growing up was that we children did not want to get into any fights because of two things: (1) the MPs (military police) were always around; and (2) we did not want our fathers to get called in by the Base Commander. I think that the second reason was always in the back of my mind. I had heard about children who had gotten their fathers in trouble and this was certainly not something to do! My father was an enlisted man and being called in to be reprimanded by a Colonel would have been it!

But also, I did not see many fights as a child. Perhaps my childhood was idyllic. I spent my time fishing, in Boy Scouts, and in Judo (later Karate). I cannot remember having anything stolen from me, or anyone demanding money from me. I guess that I was lucky.

When my father went to serve a year in Viet Nam, my mother, sister and I lived off base in Shalimar, Florida. I think that my father was sort of assigned to Eglin Air Force Base in connection with his tour of duty in Viet Nam. Even there, in Florida, I had no problems. Everyone was nice to me. I did not get into any fights and the only scary thing I ever saw was snakes! No one treated me badly because of my mixed race. I did see prejudice against black people, which I had not seen on military bases. There are many people of different and mixed races on military bases. I felt perfectly normal being of mixed race (Caucasian and Japanese).

I have to say one thing about Shalimar. That place had the best fishing ever! I would ride my bike and fish off a nearby bridge all day long.

I guess that the point I am trying to make is that I did not grow up in tough neighborhoods -- just the opposite. My views about Karate are probably colored by this. I realize that the world can be a dark and dangerous place. The self-defense aspects of Karate are useful and for some people, necessary on a day-to-day basis. But I pursued the martial arts for enjoyment and self-improvement, and still do.


Charles C. Goodin